Drive-By At Santa’s Grotto Near Hilltown Is Huge Success

Santa’s Grotto in Hilltown puts on a drive-by show for the many Santa fans across the country.

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Santa’s Grotto in Hilltown puts on a drive-by show for the many Santa fans across the country.

A Hilltown business, Santa’s Grotto, has turned a negative situation into a positive and raised almost £30,000 for two worthy charities in South Down writes Laura Barr.

Santa’s Cottage based near Hilltown would normally be opening their doors at this time of the year for families having a magical experience meeting Santa Claus.

Unfortunately, the owners Lawrence and Bernie Moore were left “devastated” when they were informed they couldn’t open their doors after spending thousands of pounds to make their attraction “Covid-19 safe”.

Santa outside his grotto at Hilltown with one of his reindeer.

Despite this serious set-back, the small family business decided to turn a bad situation into a positive one with the idea to hold a festive drive-by with Santa’s Cottage illuminated with Christmas lights.

They were contacted by lots of families to their Facebook page asking if the lights would still be switched on following their public announcement that they could not open this year due to the lockdown restrictions.

Bernie told Down News that although it costs “many thousands of pounds to put the lights up” they wanted to do something good to celebrate Christmas as many charities have struggled badly this year. They contacted both the Southern Area Hospice and Life and Time Care who were both delighted with the idea.

The first drive-by took place on 27 November and there was a “phenomenal” response.

As well as the spectacular lights, cars have been treated to sights of Santa Claus and some of his friendly reindeer.

“People had travelled from as far as Omagh, Belfast and Dublin,” Bernie said. “And we had more successful weekends following that.

“The comments on Facebook have shown us how well this have been received and people have thanked us for bringing the spirit of Christmas to them.

“We are having two final nights of fundraising for the two charities on the 22 and 23 December, 4.30pm to 7pm.

“We would like to thank all our volunteers for making this a reality and who have stood along the roadside collecting donations.”

“We would also like to thank each and every one of the many families who took the time to come to the drive-by to donate.”

“We are so overwhelmed by the response and never expected we would have raised as much as we have!”

An ariel view: Santa’s Grotto at Hilltown showing the scale of the illuminations.

Lizzie McCullough, Fundraising Officer at Southern Area Hospice Services has supported the team at the Cottage and said: “Southern Area Hospice Services is thrilled to have been chosen by Santa’s Cottage as their charity partner.

“We thank them for their continued support and we also thank the community for their generosity.

“Each year at the hospice, we need to fundraise £3.1million and with Covid-19 this year have proven to be very challenging.

“As the demand for our services is still high, we are so grateful for businesses like Santa’s Cottage.

“They have managed to turn a negative into a positive.”

Life and Time Care is a community-based charity offering extra end of life care for people in their home based in Rostrevor, Warrenpoint, Burren, Hilltown, Rathfriland and Mayobridge.